Military Authority Blog
There are plenty of reasons to get your degree, but higher costs and a staggering lack of time have driven many students to seek alternatives. One of those alternatives, an unfortunately-acronym-ed category of online instruction called MOOCs, has received a lot of attention lately, and for good reason.
MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Courses – and though many claim they are revolutionary, they raise some challenging questions for students who are actively seeking a way to advance themselves in today’s often dicey job marketplace.
The premise behind MOOCs is straightforward: Who wants to spend tens of thousands of dollars to sit on your backside listening to a lecture when you could take coursework from some of the biggest names in academia online for free? In this case, the old adage is proving true: You get what you pay for.
The MOOC model was a proposition that was intended to turn traditional education on its end. Classes are usually comprised of video lectures, assignments and discussions (interactive) – very much along the lines of what you’d get in a more conventional college, only free. And, in most cases, without the benefit of earning an actual, bona-fide degree for your effort.
Students – all of us, really – need to have something meaningful to work toward – whether it’s a sought-after degree in a competitive field, leveraging military training toward a second career, or gaining professional certification. Personal growth and lifelong learning arguments aside, students need to be able to earn something that employers recognize and assign worth to.
While the MOOCs continue to sort out their business model, there are, in fact, numerous accredited, high-quality, affordable degree programs that are recognized and valued by employers. Grantham University is one of them.
Have you considered taking or have you taken a MOOC class? What was your experience? Tell us in the comments.
Read the rest of the MOOC story here.
#GranthamUniversity #mooc #highered
Because we all know that if there’s one thing special operators absolutely religiously adhere to, its regulations on the wear and use of utility uniforms.
According to one report in the conservative Daily Caller, an email went out through Navy petty officer support channels directing Navy personnel to cease and desist wearing the Naval Jack or Gadsden Flag patches on their uniforms – something apparently traditionally done by Navy SEALs.
Both flags feature a rattlesnake and the words “Don’t tread on me.” It was not immediately clear which flag the Navy operators wear, though the Naval Jack is more closely identified with naval tradition. In fact, a Navy-wide directive instructs all U.S. Navy ships to fly the Naval Jack for the duration of the War on Terror.
But someone in the Chuck Hagel Department of Defense or Obama’s White House is now having second thoughts about the flag.
The Naval Jack dates back to 1775, though the earliest versions did not include the snake or the description: Just 13 alternating red and white stripes. The snake and inscription appear to have been added sometime before 1880.
A March 2010 order, NAVADMIN 116/10 specifically authorizes the wear of the Naval Jack “Don’t Tread on Me” flag or patch for Naval personnel assigned to or serving with Army units at the discretion of the local Army commander.
It is not clear why Navy officials made this change, and whether the change was specific to certain commands within the Navy or will be implemented Navy-wide.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is proposing a change in the way it handles appeals, according to a recent entry in the Federal Register. According to the VA’s proposal, “there are two major components of these proposed changes. The first is to require all claims to be filed on standard forms prescribed by the Secretary, regardless of the type of claim or posture in which the claim arises. The second is to provide that VA would accept an expression of dissatisfaction or disagreement with an adjudicative determination by the agency of original jurisdiction (AOJ) as a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) only if it is submitted on a standardized form provided by VA for the purpose of appealing the decision, in cases where such a form is provided. The purpose of these amendments is to improve the quality and timeliness of the processing of veterans’ claims for benefits.”
The public has 60 days to comment on the change before it becomes official. VA executives can then enact the new policies as written, make changes based on the public’s input as well as their own judgment, or scrap the plan altogether. You can read the full proposal and comment on it by clicking on the link above.
Will you comment on the proposed changes? Let us know what you say to the VA in the comments below.
Most of us think of multi-tasking as having a super-human like ability to complete multiple tasks simultaneously. We all do it, right? We complete that research paper while checking the sports scores, we text our friends about upcoming plans while we make dinner, and we update our social networking status while we’re waiting for an email back from our boss at work. Multitasking, and all the challenges that come with it, is a way of life for many of us.
But as it turns out, our brains truly work best when they work on one thing at a time.
In an interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education, the author of the Stanford study, Ulrich Mayr, uses the example of watching television while doing homework from a textbook. While you’re following the television story, your brain won’t track with the homework. While you’re doing your homework, your brain won’t comprehend what’s going on with the story on TV.
So what happens when Captain Tangent strikes and your mind starts to wander? How do you answer your brain when it asks, “How can I concentrate better in school?”
Multitasking May Not Mean Higher Productivity. (2009). Talk of the Nation, National Public Radio. Found online at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=112334449
#onlinelearning #onlinedistractions #militarystudents
When you’re part of an organization with a long history like the United States Armed Forces, you are part of a proud tradition. You have stories to tell.
Sometimes, these stories are hard to explain. Not the kind of hard to explain that you might see on grocery-store-checkout-lane magazine covers, but the kind of hard to explain that leaves the listener with a funky expression on their face.
Case in point: F.E Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming started out in the 1800s as an Army post on at the edge of the frontier named Fort David A. Russell. Originally charged with guarding the new railway, the post evolved and played key roles in events throughout our nation’s history – from the Great Sioux Indian Wars and the Spanish American War to the Philippines. By 1930, the era of the Calvary had ended. President Hoover changed the name of the fort to Francis E. Warren and F.E. Warren Air Force Base was ‘officially’ born.
But it was born on top of an ancient native burial ground… just kidding. Sort of.
Stories of violent atrocities committed by cavalrymen against native women, men and children linger still today, and you might say they’re still around in part because the spirits won’t let Warren AFB forget.
According to one resource, over the past 50 years, more than 150 reported events have been documented at Warren, many of them sharing spooky similarities.
For example, in one historic home known to soldiers simply as “the ghost house”, people report hearing rhythmic clunking of heavy boot steps and clicking toenails of dog’s feet pacing in the attic. Some people have reported seeing the apparition of a cavalryman and his faithful companion walking the floor together. Residents of the home have even had to adjust their décor to accommodate the dog’s preferences: when a certain picture is removed from the wall, the sound of a dog barking and whining persists until the picture is replaced.
If you drive by one house on base, you may see a little girl with long, curly hair staring out of the guest room window. She’s been reported many times on base, particularly when the house is supposed to be vacant, but the former owners reported her presence too. Because they don’t have a little girl with long, curly hair. And the same one’s been showing up for years.
There’s a sordid tale of marital betrayal that ended with one party accidentally hanging himself on a clothesline after jumping out of a second story window to escape his lover’s husband. Alas, to this day, residents of that home will leave a room and return it minutes later to find furniture turned wrongways, drawers opened, tables overturned – actions, they believe, of a young man who is still searching for his pants.
Warren is an impressive, massive installation, home to the 90th Missile Wing, 153rd Command and Control Squadron (Wyoming Air National Guard), 30th Airlift Squadron, Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Detachment 80, the Wyoming Wing HQ of the Civil Air Patrol and the Area Defense Counsel. These are not the kind of people who are prone to making up stories. But probably, more importantly, they’re not the kind of people who scare easily. With this in mind, revisit the question posed in the headline: Are these hauntings the real deal? Or just campfire stories?
Air Force Times
You’ve made the decision to apply to college. Congratulations!
But now what? Like many students, you probably have a lot of questions. Questions like:
- How many application forms do I really have to fill out?
- What kind of information am I expected to provide to schools?
- And if you’re a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, Reserves, or a military spouse, you’re probably wondering what other surprises are lurking in the application process for you.
This post will bring a little dose of reality to what can become a very surreal process for many people.
First of all, the average complete college application is usually made up of about seven components. I say “about” seven because not every college requires every component. We’ll talk about each of these seven categories, because they’re the ones that most schools require.
- Transcripts (High School, any transfer credit, military experience/training)
- Test scores (SAT/ACT/unique tests)
- Portfolio/Auditions – for performing arts majors
About 500 colleges use an online application form called the Common Application. This is exceptionally helpful if you’re applying to half a dozen different schools and they all use the Common Application – you enter your information once, select the schools you want, and you’ve completed one step for all six of your schools at once. Time saved.
Before you fill out your application form(s) you’ll want to review them to determine what (if any) information you’ll need to collect from your parents. You’ll also want to find out what your high school or service branch will send directly to your potential colleges – if they won’t send transcripts or records on your behalf, you’ll want to make arrangements to send them yourself.
Also good to know: the admission application is not the same thing as the financial aid application (or application for military education benefits). Those are two very distinct application processes.
Lastly, even when you use the Common Application, you will need to send each school their individual app fee, which can be anywhere from $35 – 100 each. Military students, military spouses and veterans may qualify for fee waivers or reimbursement through their education benefits, so if you fall into either of those categories be sure to double-check. Sometimes a school may not come out and say they’ll waive veterans’ applications fees – you have to contact the admissions office directly and ask.
Read more from Christine and if you’re a student, tell us how your college application process went in the comments.
What is the #collegeapplicationprocess like for members of #USArmedForces?
First, the easy part: If you are enrolled in TRICARE, you do not need to do anything different under the Affordable Care Act. Your TRICARE benefits are fully qualified under the terms of the ACA and you don’t need to take any action as long as you are in TRICARE.
For honorably discharged veterans, however, the situation is quite a bit more complicated. Unless you meet certain unusual conditions* the Affordable Care Act requires you to obtain a qualified health insurance policy by March 31, 2014. If you fail to do so, you will be subject to a fine of $95 per adult individual and $49 per family member, up to a max of $285 per family, or 1 percent of family income – whichever is greater.
After Jan 1, 2015, those penalties go up sharply: To $325 per adult and $162 per child, up to a family maximum penalty of $975, or 2 percent of annual income, whichever is less.
The penalty increases again on January 1, 2016. The penalty for that year is $695 per adult and $347 per child, up to $2,085 per family, or 2.5 percent of income, whichever is greater.
I’m a Veteran. Does VA Insurance Count?
Yes, VA insurance counts. But you actually have to enroll in the VA health program to have it qualify. It is not sufficient just to be a veteran. You must take positive steps to make sure you’re enrolled with the VA. Not everybody qualifies. For example, if you’re a Guard or Reserve member, and you’ve never been mobilized, and your only active duty time was for training, you don’t qualify for VA coverage.
Generally, you will qualify if you either served 24 consecutive months on active duty, or for the full period for which you were called for active duty if you were mobilized, and you enlisted after September 7th, 1980.
However, if you didn’t make 24 consecutive months, or had to leave duty early because of a wound or service-related injury, you can still qualify. You aren’t going to get disqualified just because you got hurt.
How to apply for VA coverage.
You aren’t automatically covered just because you are an honorably-discharged veteran, even if you meet the criteria. To enroll, visit the VA Benefits Explorer page on the Web. From that page, you can do a trial run to see if you qualify for VA coverage, and specifically what benefits and price structure you qualify for. (There are no premiums for VA coverage, but you will have to pay some copays and there are limits).
What about family members?
In most cases, the veteran’s family members will not qualify to enroll in the VA health care system. Spouses and children will generally need to obtain qualifying coverage, either through an employer plan or through an individual plan. The individual plan can be purchased either via the online exchanges or through a licensed health insurance agent.
VA Priority Groups
If you qualify, the VA will assign you to one of eight priority groups, based on your location, income and the nature of your service. If you qualify for more than one group, the VA will put you in the higher of the available groups. The groups are listed below:
Priority Group 1
- Veterans with VA Service-connected disabilities rated 50% or more.
- Veterans assigned a total disability rating for compensation based on unemployability.
Priority Group 2
- Veterans with VA Service-connected disabilities rated 30% or 40%.
Priority Group 3
- Veterans who are former POWs.
- Veterans awarded the Purple Heart Medal.
- Veterans awarded the Medal of Honor.
- Veterans whose discharge was for a disability incurred or aggravated in the line of duty.
- Veterans with VA Service-connected disabilities rated 10% or 20%.
- Veterans awarded special eligibility classification under Title 38, U.S.C., § 1151, “benefits for individuals disabled by treatment or vocational rehabilitation.”
Priority Group 4
- Veterans receiving increased compensation or pension based on their need for regular Aid and Attendance or by reason of being permanently Housebound.
- Veterans determined by VA to be catastrophically disabled.
Priority Group 5
- Non-service-connected Veterans and noncompensable Service-connected Veterans rated 0%, whose annual income and/or net worth are not greater than the VA financial thresholds.
- Veterans receiving VA Pension benefits.
- Veterans eligible for Medicaid benefits.
Priority Group 6
- Compensable 0% Service-connected Veterans.
- Veterans exposed to ionizing radiation during atmospheric testing or during the occupation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
- Project 112/SHAD participants.
- Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975.
- Veterans who served in the Southwest Asia theater of operations from August 2, 1990, through November 11, 1998.
- Veterans who served in a theater of combat operations after November 11, 1998, as follows:
- Veterans discharged from active duty on or after January 28, 2003, for five years post discharge
Priority Group 7
- Veterans with incomes below the geographic means test (GMT) income thresholds and who agree to pay the applicable copayment.
Priority Group 8
- Veterans with gross household incomes above the VA national income threshold and the geographically-adjusted income threshold for their resident location and who agrees to pay copays.
Veterans eligibility for enrollment:
Noncompensable 0% service-connected and:
- Subpriority a: Enrolled as of January 16, 2003, and who have remained enrolled since that date and/ or placed in this subpriority due to changed eligibility status.
- Subpriority b: Enrolled on or after June 15, 2009 whose income exceeds the current VA National Income Thresholds or VA National Geographic Income Thresholds by 10% or less
Veterans eligible for enrollment:
- Subpriority c: Enrolled as January 16, 2003, and who remained enrolled since that date and/ or placed in this subpriority due to changed eligibility status
- Subpriority d: Enrolled on or after June 15, 2009 whose income exceeds the current VA National Income Thresholds or VA National Geographic Income Thresholds by 10% or less
Veterans not eligible for enrollment:
Veterans not meeting the criteria above:
- Subpriority e: Noncompensable 0% service-connected
- Subpriority g: Non-service-connected
*Exceptions apply if you are:
- A member of a religious group that is opposed to accepting benefits from an insurance policy
- You are an illegal alien
- You are incarcerated
- You are a member of an Indian tribe
- Your family is below the income threshold for filing an income tax return ($10,000 per individual and $20,000 for family members starting in 2013)
- You have to pay more than 8 percent of your income for health insurance, net of any tax credit or employer contribution.
You may also be exempt if:
- You were enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) at any time during the year
- You’re enrolled in TRICARE
- You’re in an employer-sponsored plan
- You have insurance of your own that is “Bronze” level or better,
- You have a grandfathered health plan that was in existence prior to the ACA.
Under the ACA, income is defined as total income in excess of the filing threshold. The penalty is pro-rated by the number of months without coverage. There is no penalty for gaps of 3 months or less. The penalty cannot be greater than the national average cost of a Bronze-level plan offered on the exchanges. (Source: Kaiser Family Foundation).
Hopefully that made you smile. Enjoy your weekend and relax knowing we have three months before we go through this stress again.
USAA, the popular financial services firm catering to military members, veterans and their families, is prepared to extend credit if the debt ceiling affects military pay, the company has announced.
The debt ceiling is the total limit on outstanding federal borrowing as authorized by Congress. The Treasury Department has projected that unless Congress extends the federal limit on borrowing.
If it doesn’t, the U.S. Treasury must make scheduled interest and principal payments on outstanding bonds, but it cannot borrow additional money except as debt is paid off. This would likely force the federal government to cut or eliminate a significant percentage of its day-to-day spending. Nearly everything is on the table – including military pay.
The Treasury Secretary expects the Treasury to run out of creative financing options on the debt as of Thursday, 17 October. At that point, we may begin seeing paychecks to servicemembers, Social Security beneficiaries, federal employees, and even disabled individuals qualifying for VA benefits shorted or zeroed out until further notice.
Should that occur, USAA has indicated it will offer zero-interest payroll advance loans to members of the military – including members of the National Guard and Reserves. The offer also extends to military retirees and veterans receiving VA benefits.
The catch: You have to have been receiving these benefits via direct deposit at USAA Federal Savings Bank, or another USAA account. You have to have already received at least two direct deposit accounts over the past 60 days into your USAA account. The total maximum loan under this program is $6,000 per member.
The maximum loan amount, initially, will be the amount of a bi-monthly direct deposit, or half of the deposit, for those paid monthly.
USAA has also indicated it is willing to work with affected members in arranging deferrals on some bank loan payments. It may also refund some fees, provide extended or flexible terms on insurance payments, and allow for penalty-free withdrawals of funds from certificates of deposit. Any loans with payments deferred would continue to accrue interest.
Loan proceeds will be credited to the USAA bank account, and will be debited upon the next scheduled direct deposit date.
USAA expects to email those eligible. If you receive an email – or believe you should have received an email – visit the USAA website at USAA.com and visit the My Offers section of the site.
Making this a zero-interest loan is a very generous offer – but it also underscores the advantage of doing business with a financial services firm with a mutual structure. While there are variations on the specifics, USAA is jointly owned by its members. It does not trade shares on the exchanges, nor is it owned by outsider stockholders who expect to receive dividends every year. This gives its directors the freedom to make decisions that are strictly in the best interests of their members.
The members believed that extending this benefit was more valuable to members during a crisis than an increased dividend payment down the road.
We agree and applaud USAA for taking this stand – as well as having the foresight to raise capital in advance to fund it.
That said, USAA members still need to be careful: This is not an open-ended loan. Under the terms already specified, it’s limited to about 2-weeks direct deposit, or $6,000, whichever is less.
USAA has not committed to deferring the collection until after the debt ceiling is authorized – assuming Congress does authorize an increase – and normal payroll and benefits disbursal is restored. If USAA zaps those accounts, as scheduled, but funding to pay salaries and benefits is not fully restored, members could still find themselves in a bind.
Even under the best of circumstances, unless Congress approves back pay, members could still find themselves in a tight spot. If you get advanced a two-week direct deposit, and USAA zaps your account two weeks later for the amount funded, you’ve just delayed the problem by two weeks. It’s not this week’s deposit that gets cleaned out – it’s the next one. So this loan doesn’t do much but give you a little breathing room, and a couple of weeks to figure things out.
In a move that could cause a massive eastward migration of veterans from Hawaii and California and boost New England Cheetos sales numbers by double digits, the State of Maine has authorized the use of medical marijuana to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
A competing therapy – thus far legal, though not yet proven – involves injecting an anesthetic directly into the spine with a horse needle.
We’ll take option A, thanks, and throw in a bag of Doritos.
Don’t look for the Bangor, Maine VA clinic to start handing out dime-bags like it’s going out of style, though. While a number of states have actually legalized marijuana under their own state laws, and a half-dozen states have specifically authorized medical marijuana as an approved treatment for PTSD, old Mary Jane is still illegal under federal law. Federal policy prohibits VA doctors from prescribing it or even assisting with documentation required to get other doctors to prescribe it.
Furthermore, marijuana is still listed as a Schedule I drug – a drug for which there are “no currently accepted medical uses,” according to the Controlled Substances Act. However, in 2010 and 2011, the Department of Veterans Affairs relaxed its existing policies against medical marijuana by affirming that veterans who were using marijuana under a legal state program could still participate in VA-sponsored therapeutic activities without fear of punishment.
“VHA policy does not administratively prohibit Veterans who participate in State marijuana programs from also participating in VHA substance abuse programs, pain control programs, or other clinical programs where the use of marijuana may be considered inconsistent with treatment goals,” stated the VA in a fit of clarity. “While patients participating in State marijuana programs must not be denied VHA services, the decisions to modify treatment plans in those situations need to be made by individual providers in partnership with their patients.”
Leadership from the Top
If there’s ever been a president who should be open to legalizing marijuana for this purpose, you’d think it would be Barack Obama, the notorious former head of the pot-smoking “Choom Gang,” while a high school student at the elite Punahou prep school in Honolulu, Hawaii. But this President has been widely seen to have led a crackdown on marijuana users now that he is president. Further confusing the matter, though, the DoJ announced it won’t challenge State marijuana laws and will focus only on serious trafficking cases.
Is marijuana effective? It seems to be – though conducting a full-scale clinical trial is very difficult due to federal restrictions. But a study done on rats from the University of Haifa indicates that a quick hit of marijuana just after a traumatic incident may even help prevent the development of PTSD symptoms…if you believe that people behave like rats.
Meanwhile, the folks down the road in Tel Aviv have discovered that sleep deprivation may also help mitigate the effects of PTSD.
How do you feel about medical marijuana and its potential usefulness in treating PTSD? Should research be allowed despite it being an illegal drug? Tell us in the comments.